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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Stockpiling Groceries, Some Follow Up Points


Last post I wrote about why I bought 180 packages of Reese's Pieces, and I got a lot of feedback on it. The feedback can be divided/summed up into the following categories:
  • Agreement, from people who also stockpile
  • People who were critical of the concept of stockpiling chocolate, something that is nutritionally empty
  • People who say there's no point in stockpiling because what they eat is healthy food and isn't shelf stable
  • People who say it is ridiculous to "hoard" food because they'd rather "hoard" money
  • People who said they couldn't stockpile because they have no room for it/they don't like clutter
  • People who said they didn't have any extra money to stockpile.
Since stockpiling is such a way of life for me, I wanted to take time to address each of these points, so that way people who are opposed to stockpiling may see my view even if they don't decide to stockpile, and people who want to stockpile but think its an impossibility may understand how they can make it part of their life. (Ok, no need to address that first point, other than its nice to know that I'm not alone.)


So the first thing I want to address is my stockpiling chocolate.

Why Stockpile Something Nutritionally Empty Like Reese's?

Dave Ramsey is a very well known and experienced budgeting guru and financial adviser in general. He advocates getting rid of debt as quickly as possible and building wealth, living within your means, etc... He says that you should have gazelle intensity to get out of debt (work as hard to get out of debt as a gazelle works to run from a cheetah)... And even then, even then, Dave tells people that they need to include "fun money" in their budget, because its impossible to live a frugal lifestyle, especially long term, without also taking care of yourself and having a little fun in your life.
For me, I know from experience that there was a point where I was as absolutely extremely frugal as possible (down to having homemade baked beans on homemade bread with a side of cucumbers for our anniversary meal) and it broke me and eventually I caved and spent hundreds on junk that I absolutely didn't need because I couldn't handle the deprivation.

Personally, I need good food in my life, and I need treats. Consider this a type of "fun money" (but honestly, I just include it as part of my grocery budget). I will always be buying treats, either for myself or for the kids. I can buy a treat at the grocery store when I'm there buying other things, I can go to the local kiosk and buy overpriced treats... or I can buy them when they're on sale and put them in my stockpile, and then instead of going out to buy them, buy them from my stockpile. Today, for example, a friend of mine is taking my kids on a trip, and I like to get them treats for such trips, because it helps them behave better especially when they're tired and getting cranky on the way back. Instead of buying the treat from the store, I just took some of the Reese's pieces out of the stockpile to send with them.

The contrarian in me likes to point out that Reese's and chocolate in general aren't nutritionally empty. People talk a lot about nutritional emptiness, but did you know, for example, that chocolate is the most nutrient dense form of magnesium there is? When you eat a chocolate bar, you're getting nutrition. And I'm not kidding myself, Reese's Pieces definitely have a lot of bad stuff in them, but even they aren't nutritionally empty. Each little package contains 6 grams of protein from the peanuts in there. But foods that are nutritionally "empty" still have emotional "nutritive benefits". Your mind and heart and soul are important body parts to nourish via self care.

Stockpiling When You Only Eat Healthy Whole Foods

This is question that comes up regularly, both about stockpiling and couponing. Stockpiling isn't just for unhealthy processed foods. The following are items I've bought/buy in bulk and stockpile/d that I think fit under most people's definitions of healthy and unprocessed:
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut flakes
  • Green buckwheat
  • Raisins
  • Cashews
  • Slivered almonds
  • Hearts of palm
  • Tomato paste
  • Canned mushrooms
  • Seaweed
  • The healthier oils my family uses (whatever you feel is healthier)
  • Honey
  • Coconut sugar
  • Dates
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Rice
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Himalayan pink salt
  • Spices
  • Canned tuna
These items and more are shelf stable and things that people on "whole foods" diets eat. Even people who claim they only eat "fresh" and whole foods often do buy certain things that are shelf stable, such as what I mentioned above. And when you buy these from scratch and dent stores or buy from a bulk food supplier or just stock up on these items in the grocery store, you save money because you're buying what your family would be eating otherwise, but just spending a fraction of the cost. (And if its not a fraction of the cost, why buy it in bulk? Price compare, as always!)
Even fresh produce and animal proteins can be stockpiled. A second freezer is a real boon for this; you can buy cheap produce, either on sale or from the reduced rack, and chop it up and freeze it, and store cheap animal proteins in the freezer as well.
Some people would rather not freeze because they're worried about potential blackouts or other freezer malfunctions (which I completely understand); you can can or dehydrate to preserve things without needing to rely on a freezer. Many people really love dehydrated produce; personally I don't find it the most useful because I end up forgetting about them and not using them. However, there are websites and youtube channels dedicated to food dehydration and how to use those items if you want to get started. Canning is also a great thing to do with whole foods you want to preserve. Since I don't have a pressure canner I can only safely can things that are acidic, so I've made the following from cheaply bought produce and preserved the following and put them in my stockpile:
  • Homemade applesauce
  • Homemade pear sauce
  • Homemade apple pear sauce
  • Homemade apple peach sauce
  • Canned cherries
  • Canned feijoas
  • Canned pears
  • Homemade grape juice
  • Canned salsa
  • Canned tomato paste
  • Canned tomato juice
  • Pickled beets
  • Pickled carrots
  • Homemade jams
If I had a pressure canner what I could preserve and stockpile would be unlimited and could include canned chicken soup, canned chicken, canned chili, canned soups, canned beans, canned green beans, etc...

So no, stockpiling by far is not only for people who eat processed "garbage".

"Hoarding Food" vs "Hoarding Money"
Stockpiling gets a bad rap, that its akin to hoarding, but I don't think that description is justified. Hoarding is a psychological issue where people just save and save and save things until it overtakes their space and they can't get rid of anything ever. Stockpiling isn't keeping things for the sake of storing them, its buying things for the sake of using them. If you're hoarding your stockpile and not actually using groceries from it, you're doing it wrong.
I'll touch on this more in the next point, but hoarding usually isn't contained to a specific space, but a stockpile usually is. If you keep on needing to designate more and more space to your stockpile, you might have a hoarding issue.
Semantics aside, lets talk about stockpiling food vs stockpiling cash.
At least where I live, money kept in the bank doesn't accumulate interest. What it does accumulate is monthly fees. Yes, you can put money into savings accounts with interest, but we can't access them regularly, so they aren't much use as a place to store your money until you need to use it on a regular basis. But even if you were able to store money in a bank that accumulated interest, I've heard that the standard amount of interest banks give is lower than the percent of inflation on food, but you're welcome to do your own research if you want to see proof of that.

People especially have problems with the concept of tying up your assets in food, instead of having them liquid. Here's the thing though. I don't like that this is presented as an either or thing. Either you stockpile money or you stockpile food. One is instead of the other. 
My experience is otherwise. 
I strongly believe in having an emergency fund. I strongly believe in making sure you have enough cash to cover your expenses. And if you don't have enough cash, try to earn more money or spend less. Follow Dave Ramsey's baby steps and first have a baby emergency fund, and then once debt is paid off, have a full out emergency fund that covers 3 months of living expenses.
One of the best ways to help you do that, in my experience, is to stockpile groceries.
Doesn't make sense to you? Now here me out for a minute.

Every month you buy groceries. You need to eat to live. So the money you're spending on groceries wouldn't be saved anyhow, it would be spent.
If you reallocate how you spend your money on groceries by stockpiling (covering that in the last point), you can end up spending less money on groceries each month, and that money gets set aside to be used for whatever purpose you would like, whether paying off debt, towards your emergency fund, or even investing. Specifically by stockpiling your groceries you end up having more available cash that you can "stockpile" however you please.

Stockpiling in Tiny Homes

I've had people tell me that they can't stockpile because they live in a small home and can't stockpile because they have no space for stockpiling.
As someone who has stockpiled while living in a 500 square meter apartment with a family of 6, and who currently stockpiles in my 925 square foot apartment with our family of 6, I call bluff on that "can't". Its not impossible to stockpile in small homes.
When there's a will, there's a way.
Most of the people who are saying they have no room for stockpiling actually have much larger homes than I do.
Its not a matter of "is there even room" but more "do I even want to stockpile?"
For those that have no interest in stockpiling, there's nothing morally wrong with that choice. Different strokes for different folks. But don't make it about the space. Because it isn't. When you have a will to do something, you make it happen, no matter the space.

I've seen pictures of families' groceries around the world, and the pictures from the poorest countries, the people who probably live in one or two room huts with their large families -- they buy sacks of rice and beans, what we'd consider buying in bulk, and find room to store it in their tiny homes.

In my old apartment, I found room in our "too small, we're tripping on each other" home to store our grocery stockpile by storing some in a shelving unit in our hallway. Other items in our stockpile were kept on the side of the stairs. We stockpiled things above our refrigerator. Was it pretty? No. Did it do the job? Certainly. Did it save me a lot of money? Absolutely. So it was definitely worth the space it took up in our home.
But a stockpile doesn't need to be so large. My current stockpile in my house consists of one bookshelf three shelves high, that is under the stairs. 
Bigger houses will allow you more room to stockpile, but even with a small house stockpiling is doable if its important enough to you to save money in that way.

Potential places to stockpile in small homes:
  • Under beds, whether in storage containers or pull out drawers underneath
  • Above the refrigerator
  • Above the washing machine/dryer
  • On shelves on the side of or in the back of built in closets
  • Above kitchen cabinets
  • Hallways
  • Under stairs/broom closets
If you don't have any of those places available, and you want to stockpile, consider decluttering things you have and don't need to be able to have space for your stockpile.

If you have a problem with things looking cluttery, make sure to keep your stockpile in a place where it isn't immediately visible. A closet with closed doors is a great place to keep your eyes free of visual clutter but still have that stockpile.

How to Afford to Stockpile

I fully understand this issue with stockpiling, because buying bulk and stockpiling is something I strongly wanted to do and understood the benefits of when I first started my frugal journey, but I didn't have any extra wiggle room. I didn't even have the money really to buy the groceries for my family for that week, let alone extra to stockpile.
But then I spoke to a dear friend and mentor who gave me some advice on how to manage to stockpile when you're starting pretty much from zero.
It takes sacrifice, but pays off tremendously.
What you do is try to trim something from the budget, try to do without something. Even if its something that costs $1 or $2 if that's all you can manage. Squirrel that away and each of those dollars or two will add up. When you have, for example, $10 that you managed to squirrel away, use those ten dollars to stock up on a staple on sale. An example of how you can squirrel away money is maybe cutting out a meat meal and replacing it with a legume based vegan meal, and the money that would have been spent on meat or chicken gets squirreled away.
For example, if rice usually costs $1.75 a package and you see you see rice on sale for $0.75, with those 10 dollars you squirreled away, instead of buying the 1 package of rice you'd use that week, buy 12 packages. And each week when you usually would have spent $1.75 on rice, set aside that money and instead use one of the 12 packages you bought cheaply. 
At the end of those 12 weeks worth of rice, you will have set aside 21 dollars, which you can then use to buy other items you find on sale and regularly use. And if you can manage to squirrel away more money each week by forgoing something that isn't absolutely necessary, you can increase your bulk buying/stockpiling fund and use it to invest in your future by stocking up on items on sale so you don't need to pay for things full price. 
Do this long enough and you'll find that you nearly never need to pay full price for anything, and you will end up eating the same foods you always do for much less money than you ever did, and then you can put aside that money to pay off debt or start an emergency fund, or you can use it to buy nicer foods than what you previously did. Stockpiling groceries this way allows me to be able to feed my family a gluten free diet for less than I did 9 years ago with a smaller family and younger kids while we were eating gluten.

In my opinion, if someone wants to stockpile to save money, they will find a way to do it, and it is doable, no matter what type of diet you eat, how much space you have, or how much available cash you have.
If you don't want to stockpile, that's fine, but that doesn't mean its actually not a good idea financially or isn't possible in your situation.

Do you stockpile? What types of things do you stockpile? How much space is allocated to your stockpile? How did you manage to afford to get started with stockpiling? What is your favorite thing about stockpiling?
If you don't stockpile, what is the biggest reason you don't?

16 comments:

  1. Does this work also for cleaning supplies? And for other things like tooth brushes, shampoos etc? Do you do this?

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    1. Yes, you can stockpile anything that is nonperishable but you need to think carefully about how long it will actually take to use it all up. A five year supply of TP might be super cheap but it will take a ton of space to store it for those five years!

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    2. I buy shampoo cleaning products when cheap on sale and use them when needed.so yes it works for cleaning products as well.

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    3. Dear Penny, I applaud your good sense! In my opinion, having a large family, no car, and stockpiling just makes sense. My kids have left home, so my stockpile has changed. Everyday condiments, I like to have at least one back up, but, I watch for the sales to get them. Soaps I buy in the largest container I can find. Same goes for necessities. I use a seal-a-meal for my meats that I get on sale. In the interest of cost and time, when I use my grill, I cook at least two meals. Then I seal and freeze half for the future. Taste as fresh as the day I cooked it! My goal in life is to go to town as little as possible :D. Saves time, gas, and money! Sometimes, lifes little emergencies suck all my money up, but we always have plenty in the house! I highly recommend a seal-a-meal. Little bit of an investment. Sometimes, at the end of the day, I'm exhausted. Pulling my homemade, already cooked food is like homemade t.v. dinners and they taste great!

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  2. I would like to start doing this. My worry about stock pilling is that things won't end up getting used. I seem to have bad luck with that. Once i bought a few packages of whole wheat noodles on sale. Just then, my kids decided they only like non whole wheat noodles. Another time i bought a bunch of tomato paste of sale and then someone told me they are highly processed and a different kind is healthier. This keeps happening to me! What do you do in a situation where you stockpiled something only to find out the next day you are allergic to it or something like that?

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  3. You should stockpile only items you will use at the same rate.. For example: Laundry detergent is used at the same rate if you have one bottle or three, but ketchup, soup nuts, cornflakes.. the more you have the faster it will be used.

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  4. I do the same thing Penny when I find a good deal. My stockpile includes canned tomatoes, rice and beans, cereal, chips and lunchbox snacks, pasta, ground turkey and turkey bacon, frozen cheese and anything else I can find really cheaply that we use a lot of.

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  5. My favorite thing about stockpiling is that I can always plan something to make for dinner. Doesn't matter if it's the night before groceries, doesn't matter if I missed a grocery trip, there are still many, many meals I can make. It may not be exactly what we're craving at the moment, but it will still be a good, nourishing meal that will feed all of us and leave plenty of leftovers. If the kids are sick or the weather is bad and I can't get to the store, I have no worries about feeding my family, because I have everything I need already.

    On average, I spend about $60 a week grocery shopping (four people: two adults, one 16 year old boy, one four year old girl). That almost always includes items I'm stockpiling based on what's on sale that week. Occasionally I'll go over that if I'm really stocking up or there's a good sale, or I'm buying a bigger item, like olive oil, but some weeks I spend less. When I first started stockpiling, I went over for a few weeks, and then I had a big enough stockpile that I was able to keep it on budget and just add to my pile as I went along.

    I have two sets of utility shelves in my kitchen that I use for my stockpile. It's not the most attractive option, but it's better than the half-a-phonebooth-sized pantry closet thing that I would have otherwise (which I use, but it's absolutely not enough). With as much money as it saves us, I can live with the shelves being not the prettiest. ;)

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  6. I also stockpile and have for over a decade. It is a trial-and-error sometimes, and I think stockpiles need to be very carefully managed to prevent waste and spoilage. For me, this means:
    - I never ever buy unless it is an item that I use regularly already. Stockpiling an ingredient that simply sits around and goes stale or bad is a waste of money.
    - I have a pantry set up that is very shallow and broad and my storage is "1-can deep" so that I can always see everything I have all the time. I found that out of sight is out of mind, and out of mind means unused and led to spoilage / wastage. Some people use inventory lists but I can never keep up with that!

    I also don't buy large amounts of anything. For me, it's more "I'm buying it when it's on sale", not a "I need to buy lots and lots of this" approach. I've come to learn the sales-cycle on many items in my area (toilet paper is every month, but my husband's razors are only once a year!!), and I purchase carefully to have just enough to last until the next sale and not much more.

    The only thing I do that you don't mention is I buy meat on sale and stockpile it - for that, I use a chest freezer and I love it. It also requires careful management but the savings are so worth it.

    Good for you Penny, I think your stash of Reese's is wonderful.

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  7. I do stockpile. Another added benefit is having lots of supplies on hand to be able to make easy pantry meals when you haven't had time to grocery shop! I can always make tuna melts, rice & beans, taco soup, or spaghetti no matter when I last went to the store, allowing us to avoid the drive through.

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  8. I don't have a problem with stockpiling, even unhealthy food like candy. But Reese's Pieces are not chocolate. They have a sugary peanut butter filling.

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  9. I love that you mention Dave Ramsey whom I am a big fan of. And you're right there should be some fun in the budget that is allowed. And I love the picture that you included with your stockpile shelving it looks efficient and, thankfully for you now, out of the way which is a bonus. You give really good ideas especially upon how to get started which I actually quite appreciate so thank you and keep on stockpiling!

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  10. Dear Penny, As a fellow stockpiler, I thoroughly enjoyed your article. When Hurricane Florence came through this year, we were stuck in our neighborhood for about a week because all roads leading to town were shut down. Thanks to our stockpile, we never had to worry about running out of food, toothpaste, soap, etc. I have followed your blog for years and I only wish that I had been as wise as you when I was your age!

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  11. Personally I wouldn't stockpile Reese's. I try to stay away from cheap chocolate as much as possible because they often come from plantations that use child slaves as young as 8 to harvest the cocoa. I'd rather save my money up and splurge on a nice organic, fair trade bar of chocolate (plus it tastes a lot more rich!). There are plenty of other things I can cheap out on.

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